30 August 2011

It's Over For Another 339 Days - The Best Of EdFringe

Phew, 60 shows and I'm spent!  Now a quick recap of what you may have missed during the Edinburgh Comedy Festival (well, Fringe) 2011.  Two shows managed to achieve perfection, 10/10 or a ranking-busting 6 stars, and they were The Pajama Men with The Road To No One and Adam Riches with Bring Me The Head Of Adam Riches (winner of the main Foster's Comedy Award). It was simply an honour to witness these acts of pure greatness.

Next up at the 9/10 or a full conventional 5 stars mark were Glenn Wool - No Man's Land; Sam Simmons - Meanwhile; and Idiots Of Ants - Model Citizens.  Honourable mentions go out to the higher 8/10s (traditional 4 stars) Nick Helm - Dare To Dream; Sammy J - Potentially; Randy (Heath McIvor) - Randy Is Sober; and Bridget Christie - Housewife Surrealist.  Those are my top 15%, feel free to share yours...

29 August 2011

The Best Venue At The Fringe Is The Pleasance Upstairs

What a venue! It's on top of a busy kitchen and on warm days it is punnishingly hot. So why is it the Best Venue at the Edinburgh Fringe? Well it hosts both the Best Comedy Show winner Adam Riches *and* Best Newcomer winner Humphrey Ker (plus other Best Newcomer nominee Hannibal Buress). Usually this venue hosts a Best Show nominee, last year it was Greg Davies, but both winners in he same venue?! Maybe they could afford to put in some AC for next year...

27 August 2011

Adam Riches Rightly Wins The Foster's Comedy Award 2011

The riot is cancelled, the injustice from last year's snub has been fixed (just like for Phil Nichol) as Adam Riches is the winner of the Best Comedy Show for Edinburgh 2011! All hail King Adam! FWIW he should have been the Runner Up in 2009 losing to The Pajama Men's Last Stand To Reason.

And The Best Newcomer Is... Humphrey Ker

For his show Dymock Watson: Nazi Smasher! Thankfully I have tickets to see his now Award Winning show on Monday :)

24 August 2011

Edinburgh Comedy Award Nominees & New Predictions

And so, three hours later than expected, five hours after the meeting started (drawn your own conclusions) the nominees for the Foster's Edinburgh Comedy Award are out!  6 names are up for the Best Show, 8 are up for Best Newcomer (from a panel of 10 - did they more-a-less pick one each!?).  Here we go...

Best Comedy Show:
* Adam Riches - Bring Me The Head Of Adam Riches (has to be the hot favourite)
* Andrew Maxwell - The Lights Are On
* Chris Ramsey - Offermation
* Josie Long - The Future Is Another Place
* Nick Helm - Dare to Dream
* Sam Simmons - Meanwhile

According to Chortle, only Adam Riches received 5 stars, the others got 4 stars.  Now I know this is a panel decision and they will have to reach consensus, but seriously, after two years of being overlooked it just *has* to be Adam Riches, much like Phil Nichol *had* to win (a year later than he should) with The Naked Racist.

On to the Best Newcomer, where the highest rated shows are:
* Cariad Lloyd - Lady Cariad’s Characters
* Josh Widdicombe - If This Show Saves One Life
* Humphrey Ker - Dymock Watson: Nazi Smasher!
* Hannibal Buress - My Name is Hannibal

After which we have good, solid 3 star shows (nominated newcomers frequently get 3 stars on Chortle, look back over the years):
* Holly Walsh - The Hollycopter
* Thom Tuck - Goes Straight to DVD
* Palmer & Stouton - Totally Tom
* O’Neill & Paul Valenti - The Chris and Paul Show (not yet reviewed to be fair)

So whose names can we expect to be read out on Saturday?  Like I said, it's a crime against the Arts if Adam Riches is not rewarded for a third consecutive perfect show.  For the Newcomer, you could see it as a straight fight between Josh Widdicombe and Humphrey Ker but given the split in the room (and far too many nominees) I'd hedge my bets on Cariad Lloyd instead.

22 August 2011

The Fosters Comedy Awards Shortlist (Predictions)

So, the first panel meeting was yesterday and everyone is wondering who will make the final shortlist for the second Fosters Comedy Award in Edinburgh. Utilising my "reliable" predictive powers, and assuming the panel don't want to be responsible for another riot, they can't overlook Adam Riches for a third year. Likewise something is amiss if he isn't fighting it out with The Pajama Men - those two have been the pick of Edinburgh this year. Also likely to get a nod would be Glenn Wool and I wouldn't be surprised to see all-round nice guy Sammy J get a nomination too. These are certainly my top four shows.

As for the best newcomer, well this is much more of an open field. Possibly two shows that I only saw to review them, and so glad I did, could be in with a shout, namely Conor O'Toole and the team behind Armageddapocalypse. Also in with a shout are David Reed, Alistair Green and Henry Paker, the last two also only seen thanks to my very fortunate gig this year.

Could there be any surprise names? The Awards always seem to like that, plus Tim Fitzhigham has not yet been seen by yours truly but he will have been by this time tomorrow.

21 August 2011

Conor O'Toole - Manual of Style

Conor O'Toole: Manual of Style - Delightful 8/10 show about fonts, typefaces and things that just shouldn't be funny but are!  It's up on Chortle.

16 August 2011

Henry Paker - Cabin Fever

Henry Paker: Cabin Fever - As Henry Paker finds his comic voice there is an elephant in the room that needs addressing. Watching him, you may notice his stance of occasionally leaning backwards with one leg well in front of him, or the way he glides across the small stage, how he draws us into his surreal imagination and even delivers a few gags in French. Fortunately there is a seriousness to Paker that separates his style from that of the iconic Eddie Izzard. But that doesn't mean Paker isn't slightly mad.

In a small tin hut, Paker has aptly themed his show around Cabin Fever, stuck up Kilimanjaro for three months waiting to be rescued. Before we venture up the mountain, Paker opens strongly by sharing his bizarre issues with certain keys on the keyboard. A strange choice to start with, but smartly put-together and physically well acted.

Paker is an appealing and instantly likeable performer, such that his crowd may have felt overly comfortable with him and happily joined in (not really heckling). He managed to deal with these situations very well, in his own words ‘he created an effortless ease with the audience by telling them what to do’. Later he cut someone off in an endearing way by describing how he is going to cannibalise them, yet it manages to come across kindly as it gives him back control. Once or twice Paker seems to get lost in a conversation with himself, but these are the occupational hazards of his chosen style.

On his main theme, Paker creates an engaging and interesting show, with an intensity that meshes well with his slight surrealism. Some of the other ideas he uses have been covered before, such as The Game's trick of paying compliments that are slightly insulting (‘I love one of your eyes’). Paker brings a suave and creative twist to the material, much like his big finale which is well crafted and enjoyable, however fans of Red Dwarf will quickly see where the idea is going and it may lose some of its punch.

Despite familiarities with parts of his set, Paker comes across as creative act. In addition to his unusual imagination he's able to have fun with linguistics, which works well with the audience he has attracted. There is a sensibleness to his madness and coupled with a very enjoyable delivery it's clear that Paker has qualities that can take him far.

7/10 for an entertaining hour but with slightly familiar material - although the Eddie Izzard-esque style is not a negative!

15 August 2011

Armageddapocalypse - The Explosioning

Armageddapocalypse: The Explosioning - James Bond, Jason Bourne and Jack Bauer have two things in common: their initials and the fact their flaws have been combined to create the lead in the ‘Hollywood on a shoestring’ comic play, Armageddapocalyspe.

After a bold video title sequence we open to a scene introducing our ‘hero’ Jack Lang as the most renegade agent in the world, trying to stop the bad guys regardless of the consequences. Despite the smallish stage the cast make excellent use of the space and give us a flavour of what to expect for the next hour: some action sequences, silly jokes and asute parody, all with an overriding sense of fun. Then comes the twist; this is actually the screening of the Special-Edition Extended-DVD Blu-Ray Director's Cut version of the film, with the action switching between the stage and the side-stage director’s coke-fuelled commentary.

The story itself needs minimal explaining, or spoiling – bad guy tries to blow up the world, good guy tries to stop him – all inside an hour of fun, laughter, cheesy lines and subtle references. The humour comes from just about all areas of the production: over-the-top performances, prop choices, plot decisions and subverting audiences expectations. A lot of direct gags are from the absurd nature of action films, although the smart writing has added a realistic element to the silliness that pays off so well. Some lines delivered as throw-away after-thoughts are funny enough by themselves to make the cut in other shows.

James Moran and Lucien Young, as hero Jack Lang and villain Dr. Apocalypse respectively, work very well together, both as the lead roles and creators of a perfectly balanced script. They are well-complemented by Tamara Astor as Jennica Wildfire, Lang's apparent love interest, along with Joe Bannister as Falcon, head of the intelligence agency who tries to get Lang to play by the rules, and Johan Munir as director Zach Jack. There is a reasonably long list of supporting characters played by these three, including my personal favourite Dena, the plain computer technician who Lang always calls when he goes rogue. None of the characters are superfluous and all add at least humour to the already highly enjoyable show.

Not since Dutch Elm Conservatoire graced the Fringe has a comic play managed to capture both smartness and silliness at the same time. The audience were thoroughly entertained and can be heard raving about the show before they'd left the building. Don't wait for the DVD version, see this show for yourself.

8/10 for a great comic play, something I picked out based on a poster in Cappadocia one evening and as it wasn't earmarked for review went to see it for Chortle.  Steve was keen to expand to see things other than well-known names and I bet the team behind it are thrilled with the final copy!

Caroline Mabey: One Minute Silence

Caroline Mabey: One Minute Silence - 7/10 for a bold and different show from Caroline, currently up on Chortle

14 August 2011

Edinburgh Festivals In The Glorious Summer Time

Nothing can match the never quit attitude of Festival performers,  even the serious risk of summer-related injuries... (Being honest though, I'm posting this sitting outside in lovely sunshine enjoying a mid-afternoon pint)

Tom Bell Begins

Tom Bell Begins - Who says successful gritty reboots can only be applied to comic books, and not to comics? Tom Bell wants to tell us his origins story.

The show begins with video montage and dramatic music as we see the possibilities of Tom Bell as a comic-book hero and slowly journey into his dark world – until Bell suddenly cuts the intro as it was a bit too gritty for him and he's getting a bit scared, so lightens the mood with some audience participation.

Begins is comprised of the classic three acts: the beginning, the struggle and the rising. After sweeping through his childhood and dreams, a main one being that he wanted to grow up in Gotham but instead lived in nearby Kegworth, Leicestershire, Bell builds to his first foray into writing and his first true love. He quickly realises that he must leave Kegworth to fulfil his dreams and maybe find love again. The struggle ensues, wrestling with the dark side of performing ironically misogynistic gags to a crowd taking them seriously and trying to reinvent himself. Ultimately, Bell rises and overcomes these struggles in the most unexpected yet amusing way.

The show maintains an interesting balance, part of it tries to deliver his gritty story reboot, while the rest is self-deprecation through his shambolic nature. Laughs come constantly, and the variety of segments keeps the audience entertaining and engaged without any lulls. Bell successfully pulls off video interaction with Alfred his butler, a multitude of slides, at least three discrete characters, a couple of dances, two songs on his guitar and some impressive montages. Clearly a lot of work has gone into this hour, which is tight, imaginative, well executed and accessible – despite it's geeky premise.

8/10 for an enjoyable hour that I actually saw twice (due to over-running the first time) and was still entertained.

13 August 2011

Phil Nichol - The Simple Hour

Phil Nichol: The Simple Hour - It's a sold out show, yet around a dozen seats are still empty - what do you do? Most comics would kick on and start the show, but Phil Nichol isn't most comics.

After a thoughtful consultation with his audience, it seems the decent thing to do is wait five more minutes for people who have been held up. Yet the audience still want to be entertained. So Nichol proceeds to break at least three golden rules of comedy, by giving over the mike to punter Tarquin Delaney, who had the temerity to request Only Gay Eskimo. Delaney takes the stage, Nichol takes a place in the audience… so when latecomers turn up, they must wonder what madness this is. The answer is it's Phil Nichol's madness.

Is there another comic who would stop a show when heckled about the origin of the Mah Nà Mah Nà song - and get away with it? Having argued with almost every member of the audience, Nichol insisted people get their phones out to find whether it was actually first used on Sesame Street or The Muppets (it was Sesame Street). When Nichol is proved right, he jubilantly straddles chairs in the front row shouting joyous profanities to the audience in celebration.

His Simple Hour is clearly not suitable for his Born Again Christian parents, although that was his aim. Simple it maybe in name, but it is expertly delivered and perfectly timed. True, a small part of his material has been reprised from previous shows but you can't hold Nichol to a higher standard than other performers, and he's already won the highest award Edinburgh can bestow.

We return a couple of times to Nichol's trusty guitar, which is some of the best playing seen at the festival. He finally delivers his oft requested Only Gay Eskimo; while his final song contains so much trademark Nichol intensity that he breaks a string, but still finishes his performance.

The simple truth is that Nichol is at his best when acting, either delivering stunning stories like Nearly Gay or The Naked Racist, or in more pronounced characters such as the dead poet Bobby Spade. But even as himself, he still bests most other comics and gives audiences huge laughter for their money. The Simple Hour is very funny hour of madness, mayhem and magic, as only Nichol has mastered.

8/10 for the unique Phil Nichol, a personal favourite over the years.

Alistair Green - Outpatient

Alistair Green: Outpatient - Alistair Green is infectious, but thankfully just in a comedic way.
Making his full Edinburgh debut, Green goes with an old school stand-up stage - a large spotlight circling around his slim figure as he steps forwards and backwards centre stage, not needing to run around or spend time chatting with his audience. There is almost a voyeuristic atmosphere created in this dark cave-like room as the clinically bright spotlight engulfs him and we listen to his medical history.

Last year Green discovered, out of nowhere, that he was suffering from a potentially life threatening auto-immune disease. The problem with his kidneys naturally caused serious concern for Green, with doctors talking about dialysis or even transplant. It's not the typical comedy gold-mine normally chosen to try and entertain an early afternoon crowd in your first hour show, but Green makes it work well.

He takes us on a journey from his surprise diagnosis, various tests and specialists, through to waiting for results and ultimately his celebration of getting the all-clear. There are some less original subjects touched on, including hospital food and traveller's diarrhoea, but these are the sub-plots to support his main routine which operates on a higher level. Throughout his set he gently steps between enlightening medical stories and smart gags, with the audience never knowing on which side of that line we are currently on.

Green is a quiet man, favouring softly spoken set-ups that deliver inversely-proportional laughs. His well-paced material is engaging and keeps the audience listening with intrigue. Green deftly crafts some well-disguised gags, sometimes just needing an intentionally half-finished line to get the audience to realise the big punchline. There are some creative callbacks too as he builds to a very funny finale.

In short Green clearly has all the skills to go far. With intelligent and subtle gags, and a gentle delivery that sets him apart from many other comics, the prognosis for Alistair Green is very bright.

7/10 for  Alistair's debut show, in some ways reminiscent of a young Skinner (I'm thinking 1991 Perrier) both physically and in some delivery.

11 August 2011

Aidan Bishop - Misspelled

Aidan Bishop: Misspelled - Fifteen per cent of the world's population have dyslexia which, as of 2008, now includes Aidan Bishop.
Bishop's fourth Edinburgh show is an educational piece exploring the issues, myths and his personal struggles with the condition. His opening video, shot in Dublin, quickly gets out of the way the old gag about dyslexia being hard to spell and establishes that most people don't know, or seem unwilling to state, much about the condition. Bishop wants to change that.
This show is a deeply personal journey about his linguistical failings before he understood he had dyslexia, a common one being the use of similar sounding words, such as saying volcano when he meant tornado. By his own admission, his New York Queens accent never sounds the smartest, which coupled with the dyslexia means he was inevitable perceived as dumb and lazy. Despite not initially getting into university he persevered and finally made it, graduating with a history degree.
Bishop's delivery comes across as nervous and forced, seemingly due to the level of concentration he is exerting to not make a verbal mistake. There is a vibe coming from him of a student delivering his final oral report to his teachers. He is far more relaxed when off-script and clearly has abilities as a comic that are more suited to less personally uncomfortable material.
During a brief interaction with people in the audience who also have dyslexia, he quips to a woman who reveals she is from Greece to ‘give me back my money’. An interesting tell on Bishop's goal for this show was how easily he gave up on exploring the interesting dynamic between another woman and her male ‘friend’ – education rather than banter was the priority.
Bishop tries to wrap the show up on a positive note with the very successful people who have dyslexia and some self-deprecating examples of mistakes in his original edits and tweets. This grand finale doesn't come close to the likes of Adam Hills's uplifting endings but I don't think Bishop will lose sleep over it, he aimed to shed some light on the issues and myths about dyslexia and he certainly achieved that.

10 August 2011

Happy Birthday Mr Tickle

Happy Birthday to the Mr Men!  As the Metro has informed me (via Neil), it's the 40th birthday of the Mr Men today and (no shock, no horror) ... Mr Tickle is the most popular book (and first)!  Anyone with half a brain loves Mr Tickle, and to prove that his book is sitting on my bookcase right now!

9 August 2011

Colin Hoult - Inferno

Colin Hoult: Inferno - Still as dark as ever, Colin Hoult has this year moved from focussing on more macabre characters to ‘heroes’, mostly human ones but all inevitably flawed and retaining his signature strangeness.

We walk in meeting Eddie Cartesian and learn of his exclusive love of just one song, meet Thwor and his mighty hammer, understand Glin Caution is frustrated with his ‘pervert’ neighbour Preston Pearce, get introduced to Little J Parker from Nottingham's Crime Fighting Union and several more strange folk. There is a peculiar symmetry as the show almost rewinds through the characters towards a confounding sing-and-dance-along with the audience.

Hoult's work is funny and entertaining, yet manages to be more theatre than comedy at times. If you are looking for conventional humour, then you need to know punchlines don't live in the world Hoult inhabits. There are moments sprinkled throughout the show where you wonder where the humour is going to coming from, only to find an empty void of despair There are also perplexing prop choices including a huge tree taking up a large amount of centre stage, which seems to serve the minimal purpose of a microphone stand, yet maintains a constant visual dominance.

Hoult employs a noticeable motif of muted music coming from another building, reinforcing the idea of his characters living off-stage from the rest of the world. Music plays a key role in many scenes; within the space of a couple of minutes we have gone from chilled-out electro music, to a whispered repetitive chant and to a club anthem without the transitions feeling out of place. The most memorable moments include an adorable dog playing fetch the banana with the several audience members and a visit for buttered tea with a senile old man ‘Billy’ - including a scene-stealing performance by Dan Snelgrove as he battles against the restrictions of Pleasance Two.

Hoult has an impressive range of discrete characters and performs them all extremely well, perfectly complimented by Snelgrove and Zoe Gardner, making Inferno a well crafted and delightfully delivered hybrid of comedy, theatre and darkness.

Handsome, Intelligent Man Reviews Shows For Chortle.co.uk (Seeks Girl!)

Wow!  There I was reading the latest reviews from the Edinburgh Fringe on Chortle.co.uk when I noticed two reviews that had a certain charm to them.  There was a brilliance in the writing that spoke to me and a very familiar feeling that I knew what the reviewer was experiencing.  I scrolled down to see who this fresh new talent is and it reads "Review by Phill Gillespie".  WTF!?!  Oh yeah, did I forget to mention?  I'M the new reviewer for Chortle!!!  After all these years of paying my dues in the Fringe I now get press-passes and my words are shaping (or breaking) the careers of hopeful comics!

The first two reviews are already reprised here (as I wrote them!), first Neil Delamere and then Holly Walsh.  I've back-dated the reviews to when I finished watching the shows (as I normally do here) and so far there are another seven lined up for review. All reviews should appear with this clever Google search. I'm so very happy, and I owe all the thanks in the world to the Vary wonderful person who made this happen...

ERRATA:  It seems part of the above text has caused offence and needs correcting.  People who know me understand both the non-serious "I love myself" persona that comes out in vaguely entertaining ways, but more than that they know of the respect and admiration I hold for stand-up comedians.  For almost a decade I have spent so much time and money seeing as much as I can at the greatest comedy festival in Edinburgh.  I've written an unusually un-elaborated line about "After all these years..." which tries, in a tongue-in-cheek way and using the analogy of a comedian making a break through, to express that what I am about to start writing could have serious consequences on people's careers.  This is was not meant in a glib, gloating or disrespectful way - far from it.  I was trying to concisely convey the slight nervousness and trepidation about the unintended affects that could happen from a miscommunication in a review.  Ironically this sentence itself was miscommunicated and caused offence.  This was never my intent and rest assured my admiration and respect for anyone who gets up on a stage to give to my favourite art-from (that is criminally undervalued in general) is as high now as it has ever been.  Apologies to anyone who felt it had a different meaning.

7 August 2011

Holly Walsh - The Hollycopter

Holly Walsh: The Hollycopter - Who would have thought that jumping off Worthing Pier in a fake helicopter could go so wrong, yet end up so right?

Holly Walsh makes her Edinburgh debut almost a year to day of the fateful incident which shattered her arm and dislocated her shoulder while taking part in the annual ‘birdman’ event, in which various contraptions are employed in an attempt to fly off the pier. In Walsh's case, she was dressed as a damsel in distress being rescued by Rambo and escaping from a Nazi.

Everyone was cheering for failure and the inevitable drop into the ocean, yet when Walsh sandwiched her arm between the water and the frame of the helicopter, those cheers turned to shock.

Walsh then takes us through her journey of four days in hospital and then six weeks of recovery, at times unable to move and fend for herself. Thanks to her brother, she makes it through the toughest parts and to raise her spirits he shares with her the coverage from the national press. The unintentional media coverage and public comments provide some delightful moments of hilarity before we learn of the positives that have come out of the accident. Here we have the beauty of Walsh's message - simultaneously wishing that this never happened, but glad that it did.

Walsh's previous TV experience shines through as less than a week into her debut run she is confident and composed, expertly timing her set filled with photos, videos and PowerPoint gags. Her astute observational skills, including of the subtleties of the English language, provide a second wave of gags to support her story. Walsh has a bubbly and infectious persona that is complimented by abilities as a writer and performer. She has crafted a well-honed piece with a plenty of laughs, a satisfying story and even a joyous conclusion.

From this strong debut it's clear that while Holly Walsh may not be able to fly, she will go a long way.

ADDITIONAL:  I wouldn't be surprised to see Holly's name on the Best Newcomer List in a fortnight...!

6 August 2011

Neil Delamere - Divilment

Neil Delamere: Divilment - Divilment, as the internet told me, is an Irish term for general mischievousness or shenanigans, and Neil Delamere sets his show loosely around this arguing that in the end, all we have left to enjoy is having cheeky fun.

Delamere manages to capture the essence of his Irishness without feeling cliched or that he was re-treading over exhausted subjects – even on the topic of Ryanair he had something different to say, while the show also covered laziness, practical jokes, cheeky drunks and getting himself out of trouble. His gags aren't revolutionary but they still often invoke belly laughs thanks to his adept storytelling skills.

These sets were interspersed with strong audience interaction, tonight exclusively British and Irish  – but as Neil points out, we are all friends now after the Queen's visit to Ireland, which subtly leads to a smart gag about the black balloons released in protest.

An endearing and friendly performer, Delamere 's charm helps him get away with some seemingly rude – or if you will, cheeky – interactions with the audience but his manner never comes across as offensive. His reasserting a question four times in increasingly exasperated and profanity-laden ways just generated giggles from the audience rather than hostility. A personal favourite was a brief slip into auto-pilot and asking a 16-year-old ‘And what do you do?’ before proceeding to ridicule himself for such a bad question.

It's a combination of his likeable nature, engaging storytelling and relaxing accent that could easily have him described as an Irish John Bishop. You find yourself quite taken by him, exemplified by a woman helpfully heckling other reasons why four people left at a peculiar point near the end, so as to prevent Neil getting bothered by it. So in the end maybe all we do have left is divilment, and Neil Delamere is certainly a personification of that.

5 August 2011

The Pajama Men - In The Middle Of No One

I have only ever given four spontaneous standing ovations in my life.  50% of those standing ovations are owned by The Pajama Men.  Do I have to write any more or are you already scrambling for a ticket before their whole run sells out?  Fine, last year The Pajama Men won the top award at Melbourne with their show Last Stand To Reason, the very same show which was the best show in Edinburgh 2009 but was somehow not only overlooked for top award (instead they gave it to Tim Key?) but they didn't even make the shortlist!  Mind-blowingly bad decision...  Thankfully that show is imminently out on DVD but don't take that risk with "In The Middle Of No One" - borrow, beg or steal to get your hands on a ticket.

Still reading?  Sigh.  There is very little that can be said about these two masters of their craft.  If you are privileged enough to see this show you'll witness a convoluted story about time-travel, space aliens, a woman giving birth, an old-time adventurer and so much more (including an old favourite from the last show who doesn't know what he is).  The direction and cutting of scenes to close-up is perfect, the special effects and props are perfect and the montage sequences are expertly judged.  Oh yeah, there is no film footage, no actual close-ups, no props and no special effects, but when you leave that venue you will have been blown away by a stunning film better than most of what comes out of Holywood and realise that it was just performed by two guys in their pyjamas with two chairs (plus a talented musician called Kevin).

I've already informed the Foster's Comedy Award judging panel (via Twitter) that they can save their effort and not bother watching any shows, if there is any justice in the world these guys will walk away with the top award, albeit two year late.  5 stars simply does not do it justice, that's why the audience gave a standing ovation!

Tim Key - Masterslut

Tim returns to Edinburgh two years after winning the top award (boo, everyone should be forced to return the following year with a new show!) and has upgraded his set to include a lot of visual trickery (well, a projector) and an actual bath.  Despite a huge technical problem for the opening 10 minutes, Tim finally gets on stage with his deck of cards containing his "poems" and a variety of props and a presentation / video.  Tim's set is very well crafted with some subtle call-backs and clearly knows what he is doing, however throughout the entire show there were only about 6 laugh out loud moments / gags.  Trying to do something different or add a bit of stage theatre is all very well, but it has to be consistently funny, rather than just having some people laugh because you said a strange word or a pointless poem.  Compare and contrast this the the flurry of energy, intelligence and wit that was in the very same room last year, Bo Burnham, and you can see why I felt aggreived for Bo that he didn't walk away with the top award the year after Tim Key having put on a show considerably better and funnier than a guy a decade older than him.  Three stars mainly due to his effort and construction but I would be surprised if I return to see him again.

3 August 2011

Imran Yusuf - Bring The Thunder

Following last year's show as part of the Free Fringe which was nominated for Best Newcomer (and I missed thanks to a printing error about the final date :-/ ), Imran has found a big 100 seat venue under the Pleasance.  A bright, lively and (mainstream) intense comic, Imran weaves a good set of stories that stem from his unusual background (Arabic name, Muslim religion, brought up in East London, born in East Africa, of Indian Ancestory).  Some of his gags are from safe material (immigrants) but he brings a different slant and seemingly fresh energy to it.  His bits on religion and his personal pilgrimage are little moments that separate him out without being too cliched or relying too heavily on his ethic minority status.  Imran is a very likeable "cheeky-chappie" that has a bright future ahead.  An audience takes to him quickly and his material is entertaining enough without offending anyone.  Three stars and expect to see more of him on watered down TV.

Diane Spencer - All Pervading Madness

Di opens my Fringe for 2011 in the Gilded Balloon (Teviot). She has a well constructed storyline as she tries to describe an epic journey trying to get home, which ends up being her own "ferret is out of the box" moment.  Her style reminds me of Celia Pacquola however I must admit that Celia comes across as more polished and resists the need to throw in some mild-shock moments for a cheap laugh.  There were one or two moments of smiling from some interesting concepts and I left with the feeling that maybe someone else could have performed the story in a bit more of an engaging way (and made it more of a compelling show).  It was a preview show (though she didn't seem to mess anything up) and it was the first show of the evening, and of this year's Fringe, so Di has the potential to tighten this up to 7/10 (3 stars) but as it stands it is just 6/10 (or 2 stars) as it wasn't particularly funny.

Welcome To Edinburgh Fringe 2011!

It's here!  Finally, the 11 months of waiting since the last one ended, the Festival is back!  This year we have some new (controversial) venues, Assembly has been forced out of the Assembly Hall on George Street due to renovations lasting 1.5 years and so they are taking up most of George Square (where the Spigeltent has been for several years, or if you prefer, the main square of Edinburgh University).  Pleasance has a new venue - Beneath, which is a few metres along from the Cabaret.  Finally I have a new gig writing reviews for another site, which be reprised here after a period of exclusivity, but I can't talk about that top secret new gig until next week...!  Four shows kick us off tonight!